Hell, Limbo, Pope Innocent III, Council of Florence and St. Thomas Aquinas' limbus infantium

I was reading through an entry on the Catholic Encyclopedia when I found this (about the doctrine of hell):

“The Church has repeatedly defined this truth, e.g. in the profession of faith made in the Second Council of Lyons (Denz., n. 464) and in the Decree of Union in the Council of Florence (Denz., n. 693): “the souls of those who depart in mortal sin, or only in original sin, go down immediately into hell, to be visited, however, with unequal punishments” (poenis disparibus).”

Sure enough, I looked it up and found the relevant passage, from the sixth session of the Council of Florence, (July 6, 1439):

“Also, the souls of those who have incurred no stain of sin whatsoever after baptism, as well as souls who after incurring the stain of sin have been cleansed whether in their bodies or outside their bodies, as was stated above, are straightaway received into heaven and clearly behold the triune God as he is, yet one person more perfectly than another according to the difference of their merits. But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains.”

It bothers me to think that those who die merely in original sin go down straightaway to hell, in particular because, according to O’Collins and Farrugia:

“In a letter of 1201, Pope Innocent III distinguished personal sin from original sin. Unlike personal sin, original sin is simply inherited and does not involve any deliberate offence against God. Consequently, in the case of infants, who are not yet capable of personal conversion, original sin can be ‘forgiven’ through baptism alone. Innocent added that, whereas those infants who die in the state of original sin will not enjoy the beatific vision, hell is a punishment reserved for those (adults) who have sinned deliberately against God (DH 780; ND 506). The Pope thus settled an issue, raised already by Augustine: do unbaptized infants merit hell? Medieval theologians proposed the existence of ‘limbo’, appealing to later teaching that had been falsely attributed to the Sixteenth Council of Carthage (DH 224), and that spoke of ‘a certain middle place’, which was neither heaven nor hell.”

However, it is unclear to me how much authority that letter of Pope Innocent III has; in addition to that apparent conflict, though, there is the intuitive argument from reason that the punishment must fit the crime (this is, presumably, why the pains of hell are not evenly distributed, but instead the Church affirms poenis disparibus). However, even if we are each implicated in Adam’s sin, surely the pains of hell must be reserved for those who have rejected God. This was the rationale behind different theologies of limbo (from Augustine’s version to St. Thomas’ much more wholesome version). Does the note about unequal punishment allow the faithful theologian any room to argue that some version of limbo is merely an extension of hell?

The Catholic Encyclopedia, in its entry on Limbo, notes the following:

“… St. Thomas was the first great teacher who broke away completely from the Augustinian tradition on this subject, and relying on the principle, derived through the Pseudo-Dionysius from the Greek Fathers, that human nature as such with all its powers and rights was unaffected by the Fall (quod naturalia manent integra), maintained, at least virtually, what the great majority of later Catholic theologians have expressly taught, that the limbus infantium is a place or state of perfect natural happiness.
No reason can be given — so argued the Angelic Doctor — for exempting unbaptized children from the material torments of Hell (poena sensus) that does not hold good, even a fortiori, for exempting them also from internal spiritual suffering (poena damni in the subjective sense), since the latter in reality is the more grievous penalty, and is more opposed to the mitissima poena which St. Augustine was willing to admit (De Malo, V, art. iii). Hence he expressly denies that they suffer from any “interior affliction”, in other words that they experience any pain of loss (nihil omnino dolebunt de carentia visionis divinae — “In Sent.”, II, 33, q. ii, a. 2). At first (“In Sent.”, loc. cit.), St. Thomas held this absence of subjective suffering to be compatible with a consciousness of objective loss or privation, the resignation of such souls to the ways of God’s providence being so perfect that a knowledge of what they had lost through no fault of their own does not interfere with the full enjoyment of the natural goods they possess. Afterwards, however, he adopted the much simpler psychological explanation which denies that these souls have any knowledge of the supernatural destiny they have missed, this knowledge being itself supernatural, and as such not included in what is naturally due to the separated soul (De Malo loc. cit.). It should be added that in St. Thomas’ view the limbus infantium is not a mere negative state of immunity from suffering and sorrow, but a state of positive happiness in which the soul is united to God by a knowledge and love of him proportionate to nature’s capacity.”

As attractive as St. Thomas’ view of the limbus infantium is, I wonder if it is consistent with the declaration of the Council of Florence. Intuitively it seems that for it to be consistent with the Council of Florence, the limbus infantium would have to be part of hell, but it seems difficult to accept that hell could, for some of its denizens, involve not only the absence of all suffering, but also union with God proportionate to nature’s capacity and even full enjoyment of natural goods.

What do people here think?

I trust my babies to God completely!!! God Bless, Memaw

Thank you for this thread.

Let me just point out a few things that came to mind while reading this:

First, the basics, which everyone on this thread probably already knows: limbo is a theory, not a doctrine. It is a theory that I personally think is a very good theory, but it is still just a theory.

Second, the quotation from Florence does not imply that unbaptized babies go to hell. It says that people who die with original sin alone go to hell. If you suppose that all unbaptized babies die with original sin, that involves an illegitimate use of binary thinking: either get baptized, or die with original sin. The Church does not teach that, Florence does not say that, Aquinas does not say that, and I think even some popes have said it is false.

Third, here’s a relevant quote from St. Thomas Aquinas: "a man can obtain salvation without being actually baptized…[because] God, Whose power is not tied to visible sacraments, [can] sanctif[y] man inwardly.” (Summa Theologica III Question 68 Article 2) Salvation can happen without being actually baptized, therefore original sin can be forgiven without being actually baptized. The binary thinking of some people on this subject is not legitimate and not traditional.

Fourth, Florence does not imply that anybody goes to hell due to original sin alone. Those who die with original sin alone surely go to hell, but is that anybody? The Council does not say, nor does it say that it is anybody. If I said, “Pushing over one domino causes the next one to fall too,” that does not imply that anybody actually pushes over any Dominoes. It just states a cause-and-effect relationship. Florence said, People who die with original sin alone go to hell. That’s a cause-and-effect relationship. It does not imply that anybody actually dies with original sin alone. Neither the cause nor the effect might ever actually happen, but the cause-and-effect relationship is still important to know. It is logically possible to hold that all who Would die with original sin alone get forgiven first. Then you are good with Florence, good with logic, and can still hold that unbaptized infants go to heaven. (Which, btw, is a theory, not a doctrine. They might Not go to heaven. They might go to limbo. You can believe either option.)

Fifth, the word “hell” has more than one meaning. When Jesus “descended into hell,” He went to the Limbo of the Fathers. When “hell” is used as the Creed uses it, it refers to the place of the dead who are not in heaven. It does not imply that all the people in “hell” are suffering eternal torments. The people in the Limbo of the Fathers were in “hell” (in the Creed sense) but were not suffering eternal torments. Thus, when Florence says that those who die with original sin alone go to hell, it may mean nothing more than that they go to limbo. Because “hell” (in the Creed sense) does not automatically refer to a place of eternal torment.

Cont’d next post.

Cont’d from last post.

Sixth, the above comment is related to the “differing punishments” doctrine. The Limbo of the Fathers did not always involve punishments, some people there were probably quite comfortable. But it was part of hell (in the Creed sense). Limbo may be thought of as a part of hell too (in the Creed sense). In fact, the word “limbo,” etymologically, comes from the word limit, and was originally intended to mean that limbo was the border of hell. No eternal punishments on that border – but still part of hell.

Seventh, it seems to me that the following quotation from Bl. Pope Pius IX rules out any interpretation involving people who die with original sin alone suffering eternal punishments: “[God’s] supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.” (Quanto Conficiamur Moerore 7) This is not contrary to Florence. Florence says that people who die with original sin alone go to hell. Pope Pius says that people who die without personal sin do not suffer eternal torments.

Eighth, and this is just an extension of #7…I’ve heard some people argue that Pope Pius teaches the contrary of Florence. These are not contradictory statements. They are only contrary if you make two false assumptions: one is that “hell” is equivalent to “suffer eternal torments,” which is not true as shown by the fact that the Creed uses “hell” to refer to the Limbo of the Fathers, and the second false assumption is that Florence implies some people actually do die with original sin alone. It is not contrary to Church doctrine to hold that no one dies with original sin alone. (Not saying that’s what happens, just saying Florence didn’t define that anybody dies with original sin alone.)

Ninth, still on the topic of reconciling Pius with Florence (I know, that’s not what you asked about, but it sometimes comes up in threads about this topic), Pope Pius can be reconciled with Florence in two ways. One is by interpreting “hell” in the Florence statement as including the Limbus Infantium, similar to how the Creed uses it to include the Limbus Patrum. In that case, those who die with original sin alone go to Limbo as the border of hell (that reconciles the Florence contribution) and do not suffer eternal punishments there (that reconciles the Pope Pius contribution.

The second way to reconcile them is this (I know, this reconciliation thing is taking up more and more space, and it’s still not what you asked about): Florence states a cause and effect relationship. Dying in original sin alone causes you to go to hell. Pius can be interpreted as saying that the effect never happens. Going to hell without personal sin never happens. That reconciles the two statements because stating a cause-and-effect relationship does not imply that the cause or the effect ever happens in reality, it just states the relationship between them. If Florence had defined that pushing over one domino causes the next one to fall too, that would not imply that somebody does push over the dominoes. They might stand up forever. Florence defined that dying with original sin alone puts you in hell – but that might never happen, because God might forgive people who Would be in that situation in order to prevent it.

Tenth, one of the statements you quoted in your post appears to contradict itself on an important point. The quote says, “St. Thomas was the first great teacher who broke away completely from the Augustinian tradition on this subject…[by] relying on…Pseudo-Dionysius [and] the Greek Fathers.” Um…Pseudo-Dionysius was after Augustine. How can St. Thomas be the first to teach this “after Augustine” if Pseudo-Dionysius beat him to it? Also, St. Thomas was Not the first person since Augustine to break away from Augustine’s tradition on this issue. Peter Abelard taught the Limbus Infantium over a century before Aquinas, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux taught that unbaptized infants can be forgiven through the faith of their parents, and thus go to heaven. He also was before Aquinas. Pope Innocent III (also before Aquinas) is also often cited as a counter-example to the Augustinian tradition on this subject, and he too was before Aquinas.

Okay, this post is too long now. I hope some of this is helpful. Please let me know. God bless!


Thank you for your interesting interaction with the material at hand. I have a few reactions to what you’ve said which may lead to fruitful discussion.

To begin with, you write:

I suppose you mean, by this, that I am misreading/misunderstanding the phrase: “But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains.” However, it seems to me that it is contrasting having personal actual mortal sin with having merely original sin. I can see no other plausible way to read it. Moreover, reading it this way makes it clear that it implies that those who have original sin alone (and no personal actual mortal sin) will be punished in Hell.

You are, of course, quite right that if we read the statement as a conditional whose antecedent is counterfactual then it has no actual implications. However, this reading would incline me to think that for all unbaptized infants who die, God uses extraordinary means to confer onto them the grace of the sacrament of baptism (though that sounds like it threatens to undercut the significance of human freedom in God’s plan of salvation).

You write:

While this is worth keeping in mind, I think it is also pretty clear that the council of Florence is using ‘hell’ as indicative of hell proper, especially given the notes about punishment and sin.

That’s remarkably interesting to me. I’ll have to do some more reading on this, as well as contemplate it more thoroughly.

Fantastic. I can add that to the note from Pope Innocent III. It is, of course, obvious to me that these statements aren’t strictly incompatible or contradictory, but I should thank you, nevertheless, for calling attention to that fact (especially for others who may wish to contribute their thoughts).

Well, just in defense of the Catholic encyclopedia, I should point out that there is no contradiction in the statement that Aquinas was the first to break away completely from the Augustinian tradition, nor is there any difficulty about his having done so by relying upon Pseudo-Dionysius and the Greek Fathers. What Peter Abelard (et alia) have in common with the Augustinian tradition (note that we should be careful to not confuse that tradition with Augustine himself, though there is obviously a close relation) and do not have in common with Aquinas is on the question of the state of those in the limbus infantium (in particular whether or to what extent they suffer or enjoy the presence of God).

I was trying to point out that the phrase “those who…[die] in…original sin alone” might refer to no one. The Council didn’t say that anybody meets this criteria. Maybe no one dies in original sin alone – maybe all who would, are forgiven first.

However, it seems to me that it is contrasting having personal actual mortal sin with having merely original sin. I can see no other plausible way to read it.

I agree.

Moreover, reading it this way makes it clear that it implies that those who have original sin alone (and no personal actual mortal sin) will be punished in Hell.

Punished, yes. Aquinas affirms, and does not deny, that unbaptized infants are punished: “those children are so punished for the taint of original sin, which they incur by union with the body transmitted from their first parent by physical descent. … [But] human beings would be punished more if they were deprived of [heaven] than if they were prevented from coming into possession of [heaven,] to which [we have] no right. And we say in this way that the privation of the vision of God by itself is the mildest of all punishments.” (De Malo Question 5 Article 1) Still today, for those who believe in limbo, it is perfectly fine to say that the child’s restriction to limbo is a punishment for original sin. And some accept the view that limbo is a part of hell, a part without eternal torment. For these people, Florence is interpreted without any antecedent counterfactuals. People who die in original sin alone go to hell (the limbo part) to be punished (because limbo is itself a punishment).

You are, of course, quite right that if we read the statement as a conditional whose antecedent is counterfactual then it has no actual implications.

This is a very neat sentence. I want to use antecedent counterfactuals as a new part of my vocabulary. I’ll try to work it into my daily conversations, like how George Costanza once tried to integrate the word Anathema into his daily conversations, because he thought it was a cool word.

However, this reading would incline me to think that for all unbaptized infants who die, God uses extraordinary means to confer onto them the grace of the sacrament of baptism (though that sounds like it threatens to undercut the significance of human freedom in God’s plan of salvation).

Cardinal Cajetan seems to have adopted this gratuitous theory in the 1500s. In the 1100s, St. Bernard had a similar theory, but as far as I’m aware he only applied it to children whose parents were believers and never mentioned if unbelievers’s children could be saved by this gratuitous method as well. St. Thomas Aquinas himself, who was quite explicit that Limbo was a “common opinion” (which is far different from a doctrine), also pointed out that there was also another possibility: the gratuitious gift of salvation to at least some unbaptized infants. As he put it, “Children while in the mother’s womb have not yet come forth into the world to live among other men. Consequently they cannot be subject to the action of man, so as to receive the sacrament, at the hands of man, unto salvation. They can, however, be subject to the action of God, in Whose sight they live, so as, by a kind of privilege, to receive the grace of sanctification; as was the case with those who were sanctified in the womb.” (Summa Theologiae Part 3 Question 68 Article 11)

I think it is also pretty clear that the council of Florence is using ‘hell’ as indicative of hell proper, especially given the notes about punishment and sin.

Limbo itself was seen as a punishment depriving you of the vision of God. Therefore, it does not follow that the Council Fathers were speaking of the hell of the damned just because they spoke of hell as involving punishment. As a matter of fact, I think they got this portion of their statement directly from Aquinas, who was explicitly referring to Limbo when he wrote the following question: “Do Those Who Die with Only Original Sin Suffer the Torment of Internal Anguish?” He answered: “Some have held that children who die with original sin experience an internal anguish and torment…we say that the children’s souls indeed do not [suffer]…[but they] lack the supernatural knowledge that faith implants in us in this life.” (De Malo Question 5 Article 3)

It is my partly-educated guess think the Fathers of the Council of Florence noticed that there was a debate among scholastic thinkers about whether unbaptized infants suffer punishment of the senses (Augustine’s theory), or of the mind alone (Abelard’s theory? I’m not sure who held this position), or of simply unknowingly lacking the beatific vision (St. Thomas’s theory), or St. Bernard’s theory that they simply get forgiven and go to heaven (at least some of them). The Council Fathers decided not to endorse any one of these theories, but simply said that those who go to “hell” do not all suffer the same punishments. That way, you could hold Augustine’s theory (which has, I think, now been ruled out by Pope Pius IX), or Aquinas’s theory, or the theory that they are anguished in the mind alone, or Bernard’s theory (which Aquinas too mentions, as an alternative possibility besides limbo).

Well, just in defense of the Catholic encyclopedia, I should point out that there is no contradiction in the statement that Aquinas was the first to break away completely from the Augustinian tradition, nor is there any difficulty about his having done so by relying upon Pseudo-Dionysius and the Greek Fathers.

Good point. I am typically not one to charge the Catholic Encyclopedia with internal contradictions. I should have read more carefully. Thank you for this insightful thread.

How far does the baptism of desire reach? Especially in the face of invincible ignorance?

In its earnest prayers that all men (and women) may be saved, does the Church itself exercise the baptism of desire in a sufficient way to negate the “damnation” (or “stopping”) cited in the documents of the Council of Florence? How about the requests of Jesus at the Last Supper, as recorded in the gospel of John? Or His sacrifice on the cross, the outpouring of blood and water?

Does the martyrdom in a Christian cause of babies aborted by their mothers extend to them the baptism of blood?

We entered a new economy with the advent of grace. The Church has been exploring that mystical relationship for two thousand years, and still has not plumbed the depths of it. Many questions remain to be answered. Dogmas are generally defined in the face of opposition. Looking for answers in the letter of the writings of the Councils and the Church Fathers is excellent for study, but beware the Feeneyism argument expounded in misinterpretation of “outside the Church there is no salvation.” See the question of Limbo as the Church sees it.



Is all gold. Your knowledge of the Catholic faith puts mine to shame. Thank you for all of this. :slight_smile:

You’re welcome. I like this topic, the development of Catholic thought on limbo, and I particularly like showing people that (a) limbo is a good and merciful idea, not a bad and harsh one, and the modern Church permits it, and (b) the gratuitous theory is a good and ancient idea, not a bad and modernist one, and historically the Church has always permitted it. On the one hand, (b) is helpful for SSPX types who tend to view modern theological theories in a negative light and may think the gratuitous theory is a modernist invention from the 70s, and (a) is helpful for actual modernists who tend to view ancient theological theories in a negative light and may think the theory of limbo is a restrictive boondoggle from the past.

I am also working on a document illustrating the history of the theory of limbo, with competing theories too, by quotations from Catholic thinkers of every age of Church History, both those who believed in limbo and those who believed in other theories about the fate of unbaptized infants (especially the gratuitous theory). One part I’m struggling with involves some quotations from St. Bernard of Clairvaux. I have found a source where he discusses this issue in some detail, but it’s in Latin and my Latin is apparently not good enough to translate this section of his work accurately. When I am done, I would like to post my essay on my website as proof that limbo has always been “just a theory,” a good one, and the gratuitous theory also has lots of support in Catholic tradition, though it is still “just a theory.”

Since everything on this subject is “just a theory,” perhaps the most insightful comment is one from St. Gregory of Nyssa. After reviewing several theories from his age, he writes, “For my part, in view of the difficulties of the subject proposed *, I think the exclamation of the Apostle very suitable to the present case, just as he uttered it over unfathomable questions: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord?” (On Infants’ Early Deaths)

Anyway, I’m glad you started this thread, which has helped me work on my material. God bless!*

Great posts as usual dmar198.

I learn a lot from many posters here at CAF (you included).

Thank you for all your excellent work.

God bless.


Dear Tyrel,

The Church has obviously not made any definitive positive pronouncement on Limbo.

However, in the Papal Bull “Auctorem Fidei” by Pope Pius VI, the following interesting statement (cited in Denzinger) can be found:

“The Jansenist opinion which rejects as a Pelagian fable [fabula pelagiana] that place in the lower regions (which the faithful call the ‘Limbo of Children’) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned, without the punishment of fire, just as if whoever removes the punishment of fire thereby introduces that middle place and state free of guilt and of punishment between the Kingdom of God and eternal damnation of which the Pelagians idly talk” - CONDEMNED.

In other words, even if Limbo has not been authoritatively or infallibly defined, the above Papal pronouncement does seem to protect it in a negative way, by censuring those who reject the notion of Limbo and call it Pelagian. :slight_smile:

That’s also pretty useful to bear in mind. Thank you.

So, I am actually in complete agreement with dmar198 on this one; the matter is entirely unsettled dogmatically. It is curious that you would lift one part of the (Latin?) liturgy and treat it as having settled a matter of this kind dogmatically. However, more curious still, I do not know what you are referring to. The closest anything I’ve read comes to the statement you mention is from the International Theological Commission on The Hope of Salvation for Infants who Die Without Being Baptized, where it reads:

“The conclusion of this study is that there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness, even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in Revelation.”

“The principle that God desires the salvation of all people gives rise to the hope that there is a path to salvation for infants who die without baptism (cf. CCC, 1261), and therefore also to the theological desire to find a coherent and logical connection between the diverse affirmations of the Catholic faith: the universal salvific will of God; the unicity of the mediation of Christ; the necessity of baptism for salvation; the universal action of grace in relation to the sacraments; the link between original sin and the deprivation of the beatific vision; the creation of man “in Christ”.”

“there are reasons to hope that God will save these infants precisely because it was not possible to do for them that what would have been most desirable— to baptize them in the faith of the Church and incorporate them visibly into the Body of Christ.”

The constant drumbeat here is that there are grounds for hope, but never that there are grounds for assertions.

The CDF unfortunately drew the wrong conclusion. The Church cannot teach something erroneous in the liturgy

I’ll have to think about that. That may be right - but in any case, why think that the CDF drew the wrong conclusion? Can you find anywhere where the liturgy says that the children born with original sin but no mortal sin will be saved? I can’t.

The document in question comes from the International Theological Commission, not the CDF. The International Theological Commission is not part of the Magisterium.

Also, I believe the part referred to is a part that says the Church “prays for” unborn or unbaptized children to be saved. Such a prayer does not imply that such a thing happens as a general rule. Though I certainly hope unborn and unbaptized children are saved, it is not doctrine that they are, and the Liturgy does not say they are. I hope for it and pray for it, but am not sure of it.

Here is the part I am referring to:

“taking account of the principle lex orandi lex credendi, the Christian community notes that there is no mention of Limbo in the liturgy. In fact, the liturgy contains a feast of the Holy Innocents, who are venerated as martyrs, even though they were not baptised, because they were killed “on account of Christ”. There has even been an important liturgical development through the introduction of funerals for infants who died without Baptism. We do not pray for those who are damned. The Roman Missal of 1970 introduced a Funeral Mass for unbaptised infants whose parents intended to present them for Baptism. The Church entrusts to God’s mercy those infants who die unbaptised.” (Hope of Salvation 5)

Here’s one of the issues that in my view supports that the Church is not indefectable or infallible as it claims to be. So the question of whether unbaptized infants go limbo or Gehenna (both part of Hell according to Thomas Aquinas) is irrelevant, because the Church has changed its teachings. Modern popes have said that unbaptized infants are left to the Mercy of God, and this view is pretty much almost unanimosity held by Catholics everywhere. Catholic apologists will keep trying to create loopholes to escape that the Church has contradicted itself, just because they believe that the Church is protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching error.

So, as a former protestant (who also nearly converted to Islam earlier in life, by the way), I can understand where you’re coming from. However, it is important to note that there is a world of difference between something the Church officially teaches (for instance, through the ordinary magisterium), and something which is merely held as the common opinion. The geocentric view, for instance, was considered a common opinion in its day, but the Church never officially taught it (notice that even the fringe modern Catholic geocentrists, like Robert Sungenis, acknowledge this fact). The same can be said with respect to the location of hell (whether it was located anywhere geographical, and if so where), about which the common opinion used to be that it was either an island far out to sea, or it was near the center of the earth, but notice that Pope Gregory the Great, when called upon to teach on the matter definitively, was led by the Holy Spirit to say: “I do not dare to decide this question. Some thought hell is somewhere on earth; others believe it is under the earth” (Dial., IV, xlii, in P.L., LXXVII, 400; cf. Patuzzi, “De sede inferni”, 1763; Gretser, “De subterraneis animarum receptaculis”, 1595). Similarly here, with respect to the question of what happens to unbaptized children, there have been common opinions (for a long time the majority agreed with Augustine, then later the majority seemed to agree with Thomas Aquinas, and now most agree with St. Bernard), but no official teaching from the Church. The doctrine of the Church’s infallibility cannot be undermined by there being a false opinion among Christians, however popular. It has to be undermined, if at all, by examining the actual teachings of the Church.

I was an ex Muslim, who wanted to become Catholic (you can check my early posts on this forum). On the matter of geocentrism, those against Galileo examined two of his propositions and clearly said that they were “formally heretical” and “contrary to Sacred Scripture and Church Fathers”, if something is formally heretical, there is no need for official definitions in order for it to be a teaching of the Church, otherwise you’re saying that the Trinity was merely a theory prior to it being officially defined.

As for the issue of unbaptized infants, I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of ex cathedra teachings. Here is one:
"It firmly believes, professes and teaches[infallible language] that the legal prescriptions of the old Testament or the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, holy sacrifices and sacraments, because they were instituted to signify something in the future, although they were adequate for the divine cult of that age, once our lord Jesus Christ who was signified by them had come, came to an end and the sacraments of the new Testament had their beginning. Whoever, after the passion, places his hope in the legal prescriptions and submits himself to them as necessary for salvation and as if faith in Christ without them could not save, sins mortally. It does not deny that from Christ’s passion until the promulgation of the gospel they could have been retained, provided they were in no way believed to be necessary for salvation. But it asserts that after the promulgation of the gospel they cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation. Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors. Therefore it strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practise circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation.

With regard to children, since the danger of death is often present and the only remedy available to them is the sacrament of baptism by which they are snatched away from the dominion of the devil and adopted as children of God, it admonishes that sacred baptism is not to be deferred for forty or eighty days or any other period of time in accordance with the usage of some people, but it should be conferred as soon as it conveniently can; and if there is imminent danger of death, the child should be baptized straightaway without any delay, even by a lay man or a woman in the form of the church, if there is no priest, as is contained more fully in the decree on the Armenians."*

As for the assertion that some things were not infallible teachings but only opinions, I’ve heard it before. If the popes or the church did not teach infallibly on these certain matters, it’s because they never have taught anything infallibly.

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